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Hinduism is unique in that it has no recognized founder and its followers do not believe in any sort of prophet who was sent to earth to offer salvation to humanity (as is the case with many of the world’s other large religions). Instead Hindus believe in Brahman who is considered to be the uncreated creator. Brahman is considered to be the most absolute form of reality.

Brahman is thought to take a variety of different forms and Hindus are often classified according to which expression or form of Brahman they worship.

Manifestations of Brahman (The Hindu Trinity or Trimurti)

Vishnu – Vishnu is known as the caretaker of the universe. He is also associated with restoring and preserving all things within the universe. It is said that Vishnu is quite concerned with the welfare of his human followers and because of this he is often referred to as the god of love. He is thought to destroy evil and restore order and dharma. Vishnu is usually depicted as a man with blue skin and four arms who is sitting on a lotus flower. Vishnu is a god with many incarnations (or avatars). His followers are known as Vaishnavas.

Shiva – Shiva is known as the destroyer and the god of all opposites. Shiva is often depicted as either a man dancing (to create and destroy all things within the universe), and abstract symbol or a man in deep meditation. Because he is seen as a god who is consistently meditating he has become the deity worshipped by many yogis. Though many deities are associated with Shiva he does not have a numerous incarnations, as Vishnu does. Shiva’s followers are known as Shaivas.

The Mother Goddess – The Mother Goddess in Hinduism is often referred to as Devi. She is seen as personifying the energy of Brahman. Any female deity in Hinduism can be seen as an incarnation of Devi (the two most popular are Durga and Kali) and she is considered to be the mother of everything in that was every created, holding the whole universe in her uterus. She is often seen in pictures with eight arms, one of which is equipped with a sword for destroying evil. Followers of the Mother Goddess are known as Shaktis.

Along with the Vaishnava, the Shaivas and the Skaktis there is a fourth sect of Hinduism who call themselves the Smartas. Smartas believe in liberal Hinduism and therefore worship all god and deities associated with the religion as they please instead of making a commitment to just one facet of the Trimurti.

Regardless of sect, Hindus all believe in dharma. Dharma is the ultimate goal that each Hindu strives for in human life. It embodies the moral and ethical aims of Hinduism.

Hindus all aim to discover truth in the universe and in themselves and the main texts of this religion are the Vedas and the Upanishads.